Prostate Cancer – 2

In the winter of 2006, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The rough indicator of this is called PSA, a measure of a Prostate Specific Antigen in your blood. Mine was elevated and going up—not a great sign. So I had a biopsy (look here for a description of how much fun that is). Biopsy showed cancer, so what to do. This is not an easy decision, but, for a variety of reasons I chose surgery. That isn’t fun, either, and has nasty side effects, but they are better than the alternative.

After recovery, your annual ritual is a blood draw and a visit to your doc. For me, this has now been going on for 8 years. Fortunately, the doc is a nice guy, and I occasionally run races with his wife, so I see him around. (he is always easy to recognize because of his scrubs). But, this year was the end of the ritual. My PSA has been 0 all these years,  and there is no longer a need to go see him. WooHoo. Cancer docs never use the word “cure,” but he used it. He didn’t say it applied to me, but he did say that if he was inclined to use the word, I would be one that it would apply to. Not a definitive statement, but one that makes me happy none the less.


Prostate Cancer

ColdHandBoyack posted a Public Service Announcement (pun) about his elevated PSA and prostate cancer biopsy. Fortunately, he did not have prostate cancer—congratulations to him.

Been there. Done that. Results not as good. As you pointed out, I had no concept of modesty left after the biopsy. The nurse did the ultrasound, the doc the biopsy. When the ultrasound was done, the doc was busy with something else, so I had to wait with the probe in place until he finished his coffee and danish. Of course, the nurse waited with me—she wouldn’t have wanted me to pull the damn thing out.

If you have cancer, the next step is figuring out what to do about it. There are 3 main treatments: surgery, radiation, and seeds. The problem is that the treatment outcomes don’t diverge until after 10 years. In practical terms, that means there is no objective way to choose. I had the good fortune (for me) to know a man who had had prostate cancer 10 years earlier and had chosen radiation. Then 10 years later, it had returned. Because the radiation causes collateral damage in the vicinity of the prostate, he could no longer have surgery. There was nothing to be done for him, and he died. I chose surgery. That was almost 8 years ago, and I am still here, and my PSA is still 0.0—woohoo.

I’m convinced that prostate cancer is something that every male who lives long enough will get. It’s a matter of when, not if. If you are over 50 or so, get a PSA along with your other blood work. All you have to do is ask for it. If the biopsy shows cancer find someone else in the club to talk to while you are deciding what to do. Despite the intimate nature of the problem, I have found others who have been through prostate cancer surprisingly willing to talk.

Entertaining Stories

I’m going to invite everyone to re-blog, tweet, and otherwise share this post today. We all wish our posts got that much love, but this one is important. If you are a man, love a man, or maybe both, this post is important.

I debated long and hard about sharing this at all. It involves personal information, and I like to keep a bit of privacy. I had to weigh the fact that my mother reads this blog, along with at least two co-workers, against the possibility of helping someone else. Someone else won.

Popular rumor holds that a man should have certain things checked medically once he turns 50. In typical male fashion, I waited until I was 53 and 8 months to schedule my colonoscopy. This is a degrading procedure that involves shoving a camera into places that aren’t visible by design. I thought it was degrading, but…

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Race Prep

I recently mentioned in the post My Daughter…Again that we were planning to do a half marathon together in March. A half is not something that most people can do without preparation, and certainly not at my age (73 on race day). By now, I know what has to be done—I’ve been doing this for many years. But, somehow, more important things always seem to get in the way of the training dates I pick out, and I get to the race under-prepared. So, this time I decided to try something different. I put all the training distances on my calendar, just like any other appointment. It’s pretty daunting when you see it all written down.

I’m pretty slow these days. Six years ago, before abdominal surgery, I was running 2:10 for a half (yes, I know how slow that is) and looking for ways to get under 2 hours. I don’t think my running ever really recovered after the surgery, and lately I’ve been looking for ways to get under 2:40. That is made more difficult by me being more ornery than I was before, and unwilling to do some of the things I know would improve my speed. For example, I never did like interval training—a proven way to get faster. So, I’ve retired from that: I won’t do it any more. I’ll still do pace runs, but in truth, I run pretty much at the pace I’m going to run (in the race) all of the time—unless, of course, I slow down. I can feel serious runners cringing at this attitude, but that’s the way it is.

When I was around 40, and a relative neophyte at running (25 or so years experience), I realized that longevity was more valuable to me than winning races. I decided that I wanted to still be running when I was 80, and if that was going to happen I had to have a different attitude toward injury prevention. My style changed. I stopped doing other activities where injury would prevent running and poured my athletic energy into the pleasures of the road. So far it has worked. When I’m 80, I’ll have 65 years experience running and I’ll have covered 75 or 80,000 miles. No regrets about the decision, and I’m proud of how much I’ve run even if I’m very slow. The good side of getting older is that a lot of the wimps have dropped out, and I now often win my age group.

So far I’ve held to my training schedule, except for a change I had to make this morning because of too much snow where I planned to go, and I don’t have any trips planned before the race, so I should get there ready to go. My daughter and I ran together just after Christmas, and her grace and beautiful style were an inspiration. Even after being sick for a year, she’s still a lot faster than I am, so I hope to see her long enough in the race to be inspired again. In any case, her older sister is going with us also to do the race. Her brother lives in DC, and a step-brother from New Jersey may join us, so we will have a grand family weekend.

My Daughter…Again

2014 was a busy year. It had some fun times like our weeks spent in Wales and Ireland and our annual jaunt to Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico. But tempering all of the happiness was the fear and concern caused by my daughter’s breast cancer. It was a year of surgery, chemo, radiation, feeling somewhere between bad and awful, no energy, not being able to work, not being able to play with her children, fear of what was going on and what was to come. She lives far from us, but we were with her at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the year; always frustrated that we couldn’t do more, that we couldn’t do what parents are supposed to be able to do–fix any problem.

After Christmas, we were together again to see her bouncing back. She is back at work; integrated back into her family. We did yoga together. We ran together. We hiked together. When we run, she is, once again, faster than I am. She once again has that long, easy stride that is so beautifully smooth and graceful. It takes me back to when I was her age and ran like that, and I wonder why I now feel so choppy. What is it about aging that forces you to adopt a shorter stride. Sigh.

We are going to celebrate her return to health by doing a half marathon together in DC in March. Her older sister is going with us. Her brother lives in DC, and our other son may join us from New Jersey. O frabjous day! It will be a joyous occasion.


I have written about my daughter before. She is a tough cookie, not to mention talented and smart. Her research involves the neurotransmitters involved in Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. Her cancer has made all of that work personal.


A week ago I was asked to speak at a kick-off event for a local relay for life event. I agreed and thought that I would have no problem speaking. As it turned out, I cried throughout the whole thing. But, I do believe that I made an impression and people were ready to raise money. Here is what I said:

I appreciate the invitation to speak today. Not once did I think that I would use the word cancer in reference to myself. As a neuroscientist, I had considered my probability of ending up with Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease but never cancer. Cancer was for other people not me. I have no family history of breast cancer, I have been an avid runner for 25 years, I enjoy yoga, I love vegetables, I have a healthy weight and I have never smoked. So, when I was told on…

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